I was thrilled when I got into Harvard, but honestly, it wasn’t much of a surprise. My family isn’t wealthy. I mean, I’ve never wanted for anything. I got an old Honda when I was old enough to drive, not a new Tesla like some of my classmates. Still, my mom is an Harvard graduate, Federal Judge and was an highly esteemed lawyer before that. I had excellent grades and excellent test scores. I was accepted to every school I applied – but Harvard, well that felt special.
The acceptance letter wasn’t the only surprise to arrive in my mail box that spring. I was even more surprised when I received an invitation to apply to a Harvard Finals Club, all before I graduated from high school. I was also confused.
Finals clubs are for the elite, the aristoclass. Not me. You also join them after you get to campus, not before you graduate high school. When I googled the club there was no information online. The group didn’t seem to exist. I wondered if it was some kind of joke.
I was almost ready to throw the embossed envelope and hand calligraphed card away when my mom arrived home and saw everything. She dropped her laptop and briefcase and just whispered, “Oh my God. You got in!”
“Got in to what?” I asked, as I tried to piece her laptop back together.
“Mercy Warren, you got in to Mercy Warren!” She didn’t even seem to care that her MacBook was toast.
“What is Mercy Warren?” I asked, somewhat shocked she was more excited today than the day I got my packet from Harvard.
“It is the oldest and most elite secret society for women in the country! When are you to pledge?”
“It says the 10 week pledge period begins June 10th. I signed a contract to work as a camp counselor this summer. I can’t pledge a fraternity instead.”
“Sorority, honey. Fraternities are for boys. And Mercy Warren isn’t a sorority. It is so much more. If you get in, well, you will have connections you can only dream of.”
“No, I want to spend the summer taking teenagers backpacking,” I said.
“What do you know about backpacking?”
“A lot more than I know about this bullshit,” I snapped.
“Just promise me you’ll think about it, ok,” my mom advised.
And I did think about it. I thought about what I wanted to accomplish in life. I wanted to follow my mother into the law, and fight for women’s rights. I wanted to fight for civil rights and be a positive change. But I also knew that would be a very difficult road.
Most lawyers didn’t have jobs these days, let alone the luxury to take on impossible cases with no promise of financial rewards. The more I thought about it the more I knew the cold truth. If I had any hope of getting where I wanted to go I needed help. I needed connections. Mercy Warren seemed to offer it. Finally I agreed.
I met the pledge class at a small ramshackle building on the outskirts of campus. They had given me a code word to get in the front door. Once in we were told to back up our phones to the cloud and leave all cameras, computers and screens behind.They searched our bags and loaded us on a bus. From the bus we climbed aboard a boat in the harbor.
Once we were out to sea we were told to dump our phones overboard. The blonde in charge insisted this summer would be about secrecy and sisterhood. This was a symbol of that sisterhood. One of the other eleven pledges protested. She insisted there was no way, she would do it.
The blonde in charge grabbed her hand and pulled her to the side of the boat, she told the pledge she could drop the phone over board or be thrown overboard herself. Either way, her phone gets ruined, but the second option ensures she has to swim back to Boston alone. The girl dropped her phone into the waves with the flip of her wrist and returned to her seat.